I'm lucky enough to have a couple of basses: a J type with Geddy lee pickups and a P type with Duncan SPB-2 pickup.
They both get played for worship through a Laney 150watt 4X10 combo, usually using fingers and with a clean, fattish & slightly growly tone. Now here's the curious thing: the J punches through really well, and can be heard right across the hall (>300 seater) at quite moderate volume, but the P suffers significant volume drop off, and needs the amp to be cranked quite hard, making the amp too loud close to the other musicians. Both basses are EQ'd to give more of the fundamental than higher frequencies, usually rolling off treble on the instrument.
Last week I played the J for the first time in a while using the exact same settings on the amp, and was amazed at how it carried so well: with the P I've been needing to run through the PA to balance volume across the room. Anyone else find a similar experience? I've a feeling it may be down to pickup output levels, with the P being too hot and compressing (no compression/limiting is used).
Neither bass is 'weak' in the sense of low output (the bass that doesn't carry is VERY hot) but they seem to cover different frequency ranges, and when the P isn't used with a rock tone then it doesn't seem to carry so far. Volume isn't the issue exactly.
I have an Aria SB-RI and a 1984 Peavey Foundation, and yes, there is a big difference in signal. Really big. I've just been aware of the issue and adjust accordingly when switching basses.
But, as Dan said, pre-amping one bass or the other would be one solution. Another solution could be to use separate amplification all together. Or you can just do what I do ...
I don't have scientific proof but suspect that the P bass naturally tends to dampen mid-frequencies. That gives a great sound for lots of contexts, with a low-end punch optionally partnered by high-frequency clatter (if you don't roll off the treble) but is not as distinct in that mid-range band (say 200-800 Hz) where the clarity of notes comes through.
In other words, each instrument applies an inherent EQ filter to the signal before it leaves the bass. If the P bass signal has more low end, you have to compensate for the Fletcher-Munson curve (ie. low frequencies need more power to create the same apparent loudness) to match the way the J bass carries. You can either turn up the volume (a blanket approach, meaning the bass ends up too loud when you are up close) or use tone controls to compensate.
Given two different basses, maybe the best approach is to pick which one to use depending on the song at hand. If you want clarity, go for the J and, if you want a foundation that doesn't draw such attention to itself (except when you stop playing and the sound of the band suddenly becomes empty), go for the P.
ps. If you do want some related science to pick through, see this:
That's very interesting - your J cut through clearly, and the P suffers from volume drop off. I have heard that that is very common - a friend of mine went to a concert with Willie Weeks playing his P bass, but my friend couldn't hear the P bass at all. That's why I usually choose to play my J basses.
But, it's interesting that I played a concert recently in a 3,000 seat hall and had the luxury of doing a complete sound check with my system (P + J bass with an Acoustic 370 head and a Goliath 3 cabinet). Strangely enough, the P cut through without any sound degradation at all, but the jazz was more of a warm bassy sound - quite the opposite of what I expected!
Admittedly, though - I had the J bass set at 30% on the tone knob on the bass, and the P set with the tone knob full. The head was set completely flat.
What a great sound - I used both basses - the J for a full rounded sound, and the P for cut and clarity. I will use the same setup whenever I play that venue again.
It sounds as if your J bass is exactly the right bass for your church. You're very lucky that your J punches through really well.
Interesting that your P bass is very loud up close, but not far away - and your J bass sounds great right to the back of the hall.
Thanks for your comment Dave.
I'm part of basschat.co.uk, and many of the guys on that forum like the P because it cuts through (in a rock context) so well, often being a little clangy too. The idea of a jazz cutting through ran counter to the general experience of many of the (pro and semipro) players there.
Anyway, I've done a 'body-swap' and the new version has a MM style humbucker in the bridge, a different P pickup (previously had a Seymour Duncan SPB-2) and a denser body. This has changed the voice quite a bit, and has given it more sustain too (which is nice). The MM style pickup is particularly pleasing and punchy, and provides a great rock tone without being clangy, while the different P pickup is a little less growly, but also less woolly. Haven't yet had a chance to try it in a meeting, but looking forward to it. I'm much happier with this arrangement, but am now considering trying to find a maple Jazz neck to make playing a little easier.